When I walked in the doors of TeslaCon in November 2013, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
I knew the Madison-based event was a steampunk convention. I knew that it was “immersion” (meaning people can be in character all weekend, if they choose). And I knew it was close enough to home to justify becoming my first “big” steampunk con adventure.
I didn’t know that it would also be one of the highlights of my year.
Fast forward three-hundred and sixty-seven days, give or take. This year, I knew a lot more. I knew to start costume creation back in August. (Pics to follow later this week.) I knew to start presentation prep not long after that. I also knew I’d better get back up to speed on Jules Verne’s pioneering science fiction novel Journey to the Center of the Earth, which was the theme for the 2014 edition of TeslaCon.
According to Verne, there are dinosaurs at the center of the earth. And I can attest that yes, there were.
Besides dinosaurs, there were all the other elements that fans have come to expect at the con: a wacky “alternate history” storyline that advances over the course of the weekend, panels, a Friday night fashion show, immersion rooms (dedicated to in-character conversation and hijinks), green screen photo ops, period parlor games, a tea room, a theatrical opening/closing ceremony with beloved recurring characters, attendee-organized room parties, and two jam-packed dealers’ rooms full of handmade steampunk crafts (many of them, one-of-a-kind).
At least one major addition joined the ranks that I felt was extremely worthwhile: the Makers’ Room. I admit, I did find it curious last year that a whole crowd of people who gather around making things somehow manage to spend the weekend . . . not making things.
Thanks to Calvin Patten and Mary Prince, however, I wonder no more.
The inaugural Makers’ Room was packed out most of the weekend, with an Iron Tailor (timed costume sewing) competition on Friday and project-based demos the rest of the weekend. “Make your own leather item.” “Make your own beaded purses.” “Make your own paper crafts.” etc.
The Makers’ Room also hosted a swap meet, where people brought everything from cast-off clothing and fabrics to baubles and notions, mechanical items and props to swap.
On Sunday, the Makers’ Room played host to the annual Promethean Science Fair, where inventors of curious gadgets share their fanciful creations and stay “in character” during the entire fair, explaining what their inventions do. Dinosaur-repelling ray gun, anyone?
As if all this wasn’t enough, what would TeslaCon be without the Grand Ball on Saturday night? For several hours, the Madison Marriott West was transformed into a BBC costume drama, with ladies and gentlemen whirling away on the dance floor in yards of fabric and lace while the band played traditional waltzes, reels, and other Victorian-era dance tunes.
After we’d all twisted our ankles doing that, we twisted them even further dancing to Dublin O’Shea, an Irish band that plays traditionally from somewhere around 11:00 PM until they simply run out of songs to play—usually around 2 AM.
All of this was grand, of course, but what struck me most this year about TeslaCon 5 was friendship. Last year, I had run an entire season of a steampunk web show yet still knew very few people regionally who share my passion for reimagining the past. This year, I had such a full schedule of “catching up” to do with friends near and far that I hardly had time for panels and other scheduled events.
After all, as our fearless Lord Bobbins likes to say, it’s the fans who make TeslaCon what it is each year. The love, sharing, imagination, and big-hearted camaraderie in the halls of the Marriott keep many people coming back, I suspect.
I’m happy to be among them.
Thanks, TeslaCon, for another great adventure. Now that we’ve survived the center of the earth . . . it’s time to giddyup and get ready for Wild Wild West.